The leader of the K-Pop phenomenon discusses the group's next album, her solo ambitions, and goals that go beyond music
When K-pop girl-group phenomenon 2NE1 came to America in August 2012, the timing seemed a little off. They had just released the single “I Love You” (a domestic smash off the bat that debuted at No. 1 on the K-Pop Hot 100) and promised a Korean album to follow in October. Yet, in late July, the girls embarked on a world tour with stops in both hemispheres. When would there be time to finish an album?
“I Love You” indicated big things to come from the record. They had never sung about the topic of love before and portrayed a vulnerable side that juxtaposed their fierce, feisty style. Yet the album’s plans dissipated with no real news given about the state of 2NE1—until the group’s leader, CL, returned to the U.S. for New York Fashion Week in early February.
Even without extensive promotion in America, CL is a bona fide celebrity at friend Jeremy Scott’s fashion show, which she attends of Feb. 13. She poses for photos with Terry Richardson (whose studio she visits on Valentine's Day) and A$AP Rocky (whom she snaps a photo with to share on her Instagram account that boasts 235,000 followers, including Rihanna). She also has a secret project in the works with the designer, possibly out next month, which she teases is somewhat similar to when labelmate G-Dragon of BIGBANG gave a track to Lady Gaga stylist Nicola Formichetti for a men’s fashion show in January.
Things seem to be in a good place for CL to come to New York, enjoy Fashion Week and sit down for a chat by the fireplace of the sophisticated Gramercy Park Hotel lobby. “Last year, we were actually planning to have an album out and we had recorded some songs. But it didn’t happen because of our tour,” CL says. “We had to go on a tour and we had a deadline for if we wanted an album. But it’s just...we couldn’t make it.”
But CL tells Billboard that a 2013 comeback is now set for April. While a lead single or concept is still to be chosen, CL ensures that the music is classic 2NE1. “I feel like ‘I Am The Best’ or ‘Can’t Nobody’ are very much 2NE1’s style, if that’s how you want to put it. ‘I Love You,’ was something different for our fans and for 2NE1,” she says. "But moving forward, we’re sticking to the original and we’re going to go back to the fun, crazy, different 2NE1."
While the final tracklisting is still to be decided, CL does speak excitedly about one track in particular that appears to be in the same vein as “I Love You.” CL reveals, “It’s a slow, love song. It’s about missing somebody. I was really connected to that song because I was missing my fans and the stage. I love that song. I know people will love it.”